There’s a new race in the smart home – it’s not about who will control your home but rather how. The introduction of voice assistant devices Amazon Echo and Google Home have definitely changed the conversation and the market for how we interact with the tech inside our homes. But if speaking commands to things in the house to turn them on or off or check their status seems unnatural, you could always text instead.

That’s the premise of Unified Inbox, a small company based Singapore that’s developed soon-to-be-patented software that delivers smart home control via text messenger. It’s easy to see the appeal of texting your home – it’s an easy and common way for humans to communicate with each other and it removes the awkwardness of barking out orders to an inanimate object.

The CEO of Unified Inbox, Toby Ruckert, makes the case to Reuters, saying “Think of it as a universal translator between the languages that machines speak … and us humans.” Though the company is small and privately funded, it has companies like Samsung, Bosch and IBM jumping on board to integrate functionality into their own devices. Using Unified Inbox’s platform, manufacturers can add a text assistant to their product, capitalizing on the ubiquity of smartphones in every home.

The API developed by Unified Inbox is called UnificationEngine or UE and works by taking text inputs to a messenger app and translates the human words into machine language. Described as an “IoT messenging platform,” UE was developed to bridge the language gap between people and the things around them.

Credit: Reuters

Text commands such as “turn off the lights,” “start the coffee machine at 6,” and “preheat the oven to 450” can be typed into over 20 different messenger apps along with Twitter and SMS to control a variety of home devices. From ovens and kettles, the platform can work with many appliances and Unified Inbox is testing more including garage door openers and toasters.

But why have “more than half of the world’s appliance makers” – according to Ruckert – signed up to partner with this small startup? Reuters reports that Ruckert and other tech leaders like Mark Zuckerberg see a huge future in text control – and think that big companies are worried about Amazon’s dominance.

“They’re worried the big tech companies’ one-appliance-controls-all approach will relegate them to commodity players, connecting to Alexa or another dominant platform, or being cast aside if Amazon moves into making its own household appliances.”

Check out the full story on Unified Inbox, their API and how machine learning that continues to change how we talk to our things.

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